Western Views on Ethical Theory: Virtue and Reasoning

Unit 3


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  • Western Views on Ethical Theory: Virtue and Reasoning


In this unit, you will study the ethical approach of virtue or moral character. Like all the ethical theories you have studied so far, the application of this theory has its strengths and its flaws. Pay close attention to your readings for this unit as they will cover the nature of these attributes.


Briefly, theories based on virtue are in contrast to the theories presented in the last two units, which emphasized duties or rules (deontology) or the consequences of actions (consequentialism). Rather than focusing on acts or rules, virtue ethics focus on the moral character of the individual. From this view, you should live a life of virtue, as a virtuous person, acting virtuously (Crisp, 2010).

Virtue ethics can be traced back to Aristotle and Plato, with Plato’s Republic laying the foundations for conceptualizing justice as a virtue (Baggini & Fosi, 2007). Other theories of justice are more modern, based on the work of John Rawls in the 1960s and 1970s about fairness. Rawls was interested in ethics at a societal level, what he called its basic structure. According to Lovett (2010), this structure encompasses the following:

The set of social institutions and practices that systematically influence how well our lives can be expected to go, individual effort aside. These institutions and practices obviously include such things as the system of government and laws, but they also include some less obvious things, such as the organization of the economy and, in some cases, cultural conditions. (p. 17).

The third theory included in the group is the ethics of care. This theory also has a social concern: “Care means attention to what is going on in the world and emotional concern about the well-being of others” (Ciulla, 2009, p. 3). Principles associated with ethics of care push beyond individual interests, or even mediation of conflicting interests, to see that the interests of humanity are intertwined (Held, 2007).

As you explore and apply theories of virtue ethics, justice, and ethics of care, you may find that the questions they generate are quite different from those of the last two units. Which viewpoints and assumptions are closer to your own? Which theory fits better with your professional field and your intended research dissertation directions?


Baggini, J., & Fosi, P. S. (2007). The ethics toolkit: A compendium of ethical concepts and methods. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Ciulla, J. B. (2009). Leadership and the ethics of care. Journal of Business Ethics, 88(1), 3–4.

Crisp, R. (2010). Virtue ethics and virtue epistemology. Metaphilosophy, 41(1/2), 22–40.

Held, V. (2007). The ethics of care. In D. Copp (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of ethical theory. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Lovett, F. (2010). Reader’s guides: Rawls’s ‘A theory of justice’. London, UK: Continuum International Publishing.


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[u03s1] Unit 03 Study 1



Use your The Elements of Moral Philosophy text to read the following:

    • Chapter 11, “Feminism and the Ethics of Care,” pages 147–158.
    • Chapter 12, “Virtue Ethics,” pages 159–174.
    • Chapter 13, “What Would a Satisfactory Moral Theory Be Like?,” pages 175–184.\

Use the Internet to read the following:

Learning Components

This activity will help you achieve the following learning components:

    • Examine the role of virtue and personal moral integrity in ethical leadership.
  • Toggle Drawer

[u03d1] Unit 03 Discussion 1

Moral Innocence

In his book Defining Moments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right, Badaracco (1997) states the following:

Men and women who have power over the lives and livelihoods of others must almost inevitably get their hands dirty—not in the sense of rolling up their sleeves and working hard, but in the sense of losing their moral innocence. (p. 4)

He goes on to quote venerable management philosopher Chester Barnard with a similar sentiment, “It seems to me inevitable that the struggle to maintain cooperation among men should as surely destroy some men morally as battle destroys them physically” (p. 4).

In your post:

    • Explain what Badaracco means by the loss of moral innocence from the perspective of the ethical theory of virtue.
    • Describe a situation when you or someone you know made a decision that led to others questioning that person’s character.
      • What was the decision that was made?
      • What characteristics of virtue were called into question and why?
      • How might a situation like this affect the ability to lead effectively?

Support your position with references to the unit readings and your own research. Be sure you follow current APA guidelines for citations and references.

Response Guidelines

Respond to the posts of at least two of your peers. Use this discussion to share experiences and ideas. Ask questions, seek clarity, and offer your own perspective.


Badaracco, J. L. Jr., (1997). Defining moments: When managers must choose between right and right. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Learning Components

This activity will help you achieve the following learning components:

    • Apply an ethical framework to an ethical dilemma.
    • Explain the role of ethical theory in guiding business decisions in a global environment.
    • Analyze the connection between ethical decision making and effective leadership.
    • Examine the role of virtue and personal moral integrity in ethical leadership.
    • Apply doctoral-level skill in critical thinking, research, and writing.
    • Cite and reference resources, giving appropriate credit for another’s work.